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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


512.751.5199

www.austinstructural.com

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Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips

Home Maintenance Guide


& Energy Saving Tips 2011 Edition
!
Although the information in this guide is based on the authors extensive experience and knowledge
of recognized home maintenance procedures, it is not intended to substitute for the services of qualified
professionals with on-site knowledge. Before attempting any dangerous activities and to clarify any
uncertainties, seek the advice of an appropriate local expert. Recognized safety procedures should be followed
when performing any home maintenance tasks.

Table of Contents:
All Around the House:

A Safe Home

Texas Soils & Site Drainage

Rain Gutters and Downspouts

Trees and Shrubs

Foundations:

Concrete Slabs

Pier & Beam

Outside of the House:

Foliage

Decks and Balconies

Clearance from the Ground

Wood & Cement Sidings

Masonry Veneer

Stucco Type Veneer

Exterior Doors

Windows

Roofing:

10

Overhanging Trees

10

Roof Flashings

10

Roof Surfaces

10

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


An Energy Efficient Home:

11

Sealing Air Leaks

11

The EnergyGuide & ENERGY STAR Label

11

Legislation of the Light Bulb?

12

Recessed Light Fixtures

12

Radiant Barriers

13

Attic Ventilation

13

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)

13

Programable Thermostats

13

Insulation

14

Laundry Room

15

Laundry Connections and Dryer Vent

15

Fire Safety Tips:

15

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

15

Fire Extinguishers

16

Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Systems (HVAC):

16

Return Air Filters

16

Heating

16

Air Conditioning

17

Electrical:

18

Electrical Outlets

18

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters Protection

18

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

19

Plumbing:

19

Plumbing Fixtures & Drains

19

Water Heaters

20

Sprinkler Systems

21

Rain & Freeze Sensors

21

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips

All Around the House:


A Safe Home

Maintaining a safe home is an on going process, so you should periodically walk around
the house with an eye to safety. Share this information with your family so that they can be aware
of home safety also. Here is a check list of a few things to look for:
Trip hazards like raised edges in a sidewalk and missing covers at water meters &
sprinkler boxes.
Look for low hanging branches and keep bushes and shrubs well trimmed, especially
around doors and windows.
Consider installing timers or sensors for outdoor lighting to keep the exterior well
illuminated & check to see if all outdoor light bulbs are working.
Be familiar with the locations of all utility shut offs and that they are readily accessible.
Separate old or unused paints, insecticides, toxic cleaners, and depleted household
batteries for hazardous waste pickup or delivery to an approved disposal site.
Check the batteries in your smoke detectors and install a smoke detector in each
bedroom and bedroom hallways.
If you have gas appliances in your home or an attached garage, install a carbon monoxide
detector.
Know the locations of the fire extinguishers and if they require service. Make sure to have
one on each floor of the house.
Test your GFCI & AFCI devices for proper operation.
Keep your water heater set at 120F or just below the medium setting to prevent scalds
and burns.
Have a licensed trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up your homes HVAC
system once a year to keep your system working properly.
Remember, you can contact Austin Structural Inspections TREC license #5702 for
guidance and more information about your home.

www.austinstructural.com | larson@austinstructural.com
Phone:"512.751.5199

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

www.tarei.com

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Texas Soils & Site Drainage

Texas is the second largest state in the U.S covering over 268,000 square miles, so it is
no surprise that there are multiple soil types in regions throughout the state. Each region has
unique soil types from expansive clay to sand, while some areas may have a mixture of several
soil types. It is best to talk with your inspector or a local specialist for the type of soil in your area
and any maintenance recommendations they may have for your home. Some of these soil types
and their areas are listed below:

Blackland Soil

The blackland region of Texas is in a narrow
band that runs north to south through the east central
part of the state. The soil is thick expansive black clay.
Sandy Loam

Deep sandy loam soils are found in the Piney
Woods area in the eastern quarter of the state. It is a
mixture of sand and red clay that is suitable for
agricultural production.
Sand

Pure sand is found in the area of Texas between the blackland soil and sandy loam of the
Piney Woods. Called "sugar sand" or "blow sand", most of the region that is covered in sandy soil
is known as the Post Oak Savannah.
Yellow Clay

The Edward's Plateau region of Texas is covered with a thin layer of yellow clay that has a
solid layer of limestone underneath.
Alluvial Soil

The alluvial soil and clay that is pervasive in the Western Gulf Coastal region is often
referred to as black gumbo clay.

With expansive clay soils, you should maintain the moisture content by watering the yard
around the house and ensuring proper drainage. Overwatering is a common mistake that can lead
to expansion and upheaval in clay soils. The goal is to achieve a balanced moisture content in
these clay soils by not over or under watering. Underwatering
allows the soil to dry out and separate from the edges of the
foundation resulting in gaps
between the soil and the
slab. Keep your grass and
soil happy by watering
uniformly with a sprinkler
system that provides
uniform coverage or by
using soaker hoses placed
about 18 to 24 inches away from the foundation to supply
slow, steady, uniform watering around the house.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Site Drainage

Solutions to drainage problems are as
varied as the terrain and may include rain gutters,
proper extensions for downspouts, french drains,
swales, catch basins, retaining walls, and even
sump pumps. The goal is to make sure water
drains away from the house.

Rain Gutters and Downspouts


If you dont have rain gutters, consider

adding them. Properly installed gutters and


downspout terminations can help solve drainage
problems or prevent them from occurring.

Clean rain gutters and downspouts as
needed to keep them flowing freely. In an area of
heavy trees, cleaning may be required several times
a year. Inspect gutters for proper drainage
(standing water can breed mosquitoes), leaks at
seams or end caps, loose or missing gutter spikes,
and loose or missing downspouts. Look behind
gutters for rotted fascia and repair as needed.
Splash blocks or downspout extensions should
direct water into the yard well away from the
foundation.

Trees and Shrubs



Allow air to freely circulate next to the house. This is easily accomplished by locating
decorative plants several feet away from exterior walls and keeping them trimmed. By keeping the
veneer & siding easily visible, maintenance problems will be detected early and unwanted guests
wont have a place to hide. Vines growing on any exterior surface will cause serious damage over
time and should be removed. Do not try to remove vines by pulling them off. Instead, sever them
at the ground and wait until the plants have died before removing them. Trees should be planted
far enough away from the house that their canopy will not overhang the roof when they are fully
mature. A trees root system mimics its canopy. Roots
growing under a foundation can destabilize it in
several ways. For instance, by removing moisture
from the soil that a foundation needs for its structural
support. When trees are close to the house, their
limbs should never touch the house or roof. Damage
can result by branches touching the roof as well as
providing a pathway for insects and rodents to your
home. Be aware too, that growing root systems can
lift sidewalks, patios, and driveways, causing damage
and creating trip hazards.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips

Foundations:
Concrete Slabs

Periodically walk around and visually inspect the interior and exterior for any evidence of
movement. The most noticeable results of these movement indicators may be sheetrock cracks;
sticking, not latching and out of square doors; unevenness in floors; exterior mortar or brick
fractures; separations around window or door frames, at the frieze and trim boards; and excessive
cracks in the grade beams, patios, garage floors, or porches of your home. Any of these items,
along with many others, may be indications of undesirable foundation movement. If you suspect
any of these problems, we suggest contacting a professional engineer to further evaluated these
conditions at your home and make recommendations.

Pier & Beam



Walk around the perimeter of the house looking for cracks or damage to the crawl space
beam or skirting and ventilation openings. Skirting and vent screens should be kept in good
condition to prevent animal access and to maintain adequate ventilation year-round. Inadequate
venting or blocked vents can lead to moisture build-up under the house, possibly leading to wood
rot and wood-destroying insect activity. The crawl space should not be used for storage such as
an attic would be. An inspection of the crawl space should be completed annually and is best left
to a qualified inspector.

Outside of the House:


Foliage

Remove or thin dense foliage close to the house to allow for inspection of exterior
surfaces and good air circulation. Vines should not be allowed to grow on or cover walls. The
foliage holds moisture, promotes rot, and damages all siding types.

Decks and Balconies

Inspect deck and balcony steps and surfaces for loose fasteners, nails backing out, rotting

or loose deck boards, and properly operating gates and latches. Replace damaged wood and
framing members with treated or other exterior rated materials. Loose fasteners should be
removed and replaced with ring shank nails or decking screws for better holding power.
Aluminum or stainless steel fasteners may cost more but will not rust. Rebuild any loose, missing
or rotted railings, benches or steps. Current safety standards require railings to be at least 36inches in height and baluster spacing to be four inches or less for the safety of small children
when decks are over 30-inches from the ground.

The presence of dirt, mold and mildew can be slippery when the deck is wet and will
reduce the life of the decking. They can usually be removed from deck surfaces by a power washer
or a deck cleaning solution. After the surface is clean, finishing it with a deck sealant or wood
stain will result in a longer lasting deck.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Clearance from the Ground

Clearances from the ground to the bottom of
the exterior veneer should be maintained to minimize
the possibility of moisture damage and insect
infestation. Soil lines may build up over time in
flowerbeds when adding mulch so take care not to
cover the foundation beam up to the veneer mulch.
The amount of clearances between the ground and
veneer will vary based on the type of exterior veneer
that is on your house. 2 inches should be between
the concrete flatwork and siding, and 6 inches
between the grade and siding to prevent the absorption of water, resulting in decay, and to
provide sufficient space to check for termite activity. If soil is graded to improve siding clearance,
take care that water does not pond at the foundation edge.

Wood & Cement Sidings


Exterior sidings such as wood and cement board siding should be checked for blistered or

flaking paint; rusted fasteners and nail pops; loose or rotted wood, panels and trim; gaps
between panels, and water damage. Remember to thoroughly paint the bottom edge of these
panels for greatest protection. Loose fasteners can be replaced with large-headed screws (with
washers if necessary) for a more permanent repair. Gaps or cracks at trim or between panels
should be sealed with a good quality exterior caulk. When repainting exterior surfaces, pay special
attention to surface repair and preparation so your paint job will last.

Masonry Veneer

Masonry walls should be inspected for soft or

missing mortar, cracks or separations in mortar joints,


and cracked or loose bricks or stones. A brick mason
can replace soft or missing mortar. Cracked masonry
or mortar joints may indicate foundation distress and
should be inspected by a qualified structural engineer
who can recommend any needed repairs or remedial
action. Weep holes are openings in the bottom of brick
or stone walls and above window and door lintels
designed to allow an escape route for moisture that
enters the wall cavity. Weep holes are usually spaced about 33 inches apart and should not be
obstructed or sealed.

Stucco Type Veneer



Carefully inspect stucco surfaces for cracks and evidence of moisture penetration. Stucco
is often installed without provision for moisture to escape from wall cavities. Moisture seeping
through cracks can do serious damage before detection and professional repairs are
recommended. Stucco siding should terminate several inches above the soil, roof surfaces and
walking surface, such as a sidewalk, balcony or driveways. Transition joints between stucco
surfaces and adjoining wall finishes should be sealed with approved sealants by the stucco
manufacture to prevent water penetration.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Exterior Doors

Check doors, door trim, and thresholds for wood rot or water damage. Remove and
replace any deteriorated exterior caulking with a quality caulking compatible with door and wall
materials. Loose hinges and door hardware should be secure. Properly installed weather-stripping
at exterior doors not only keeps moisture out by helps lower your energy bills.

Sliding glass door rollers may wear and dirty tracks can make the doors hard to operate.

Most rollers can be adjusted or replaced to keep the door operating smoothly. Sliding glass door
locks often fail to latch and a supplementary lock will increase home security.

Garage doors should be balanced for proper and safe operation. To test if the door is
properly balanced, release the automatic operator from the door with the pull cord if one is
present and with the door in the down position. The door should easily open to its full height and
close smoothly without falling towards the floor. A balanced door will stay in place when opened
to a height of five or six feet. Rollers and hinges should not be loose and should operate
smoothly. Regular servicing of rollers and tracks will help keep them working smoothly. Check the
cables for signs of fraying or damage. Since springs and cables are under great tension and can
cause serious injury or damage if mishandled, adjustments are best left to a qualified contractor.

A properly adjusted automatic garage door opener will automatically reopen when striking
an obstruction. This can be tested by placing a 2x4 board flat on the floor under the center brace
of the garage door. When the door hits the board it should reverse to the full open position.
Adjustments of the operator motors can correct movement and sensitivity in the opener. Caution:
Lightweight metal doors can be damaged if the reverse mechanism does not function properly
during this test. Door operators manufactured after 1993 will also have optical sensors installed
within 6 inches of the floor on each side of the door opening. If the beam between the sensors is
broken while the door is closing, it should reverse directions and open. If the optical sensors are
not properly aligned, the door will not function as intended. Do not attempt to circumvent these
safety features. They are designed to minimize the risk of a large, heavy, moving object.

Windows

Open and close all the windows in your house making sure the bedroom windows are
accessible for safety. Clean and lubricate any that are stiff and difficult to operate. Be sure no
glass is cracked or broken and that the window locks function properly. Double-pane windows
have a layer of air seal between the panes. Double-pane windows insulate about twice as well as
single-pane windows, so only half as much heat passes through the window. The space between
the two panes can also be filled with argon or krypton gas, which insulate better than air. If you
notice fogging or moisture between the panes of glass then the sealed air space between the
glass panes has lost its seal. This does not necessarily mean the window is no longer insulated. If
there was a sealed air space between the panes of glass then you still have the air space to act as
an insulating space. However, if there was argon or krypton gas between the panes that has
escaped, and now there is just an air space, then some insulating value has been lost. A window
and glass company can replace the window panes with lost seals while keeping the same window
frame in place.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips

Roofing:
Do not attempt to access and walk on a roof unless you are completely comfortable, have the
proper equipment for access, and wear appropriate clothingincluding rubber-soled shoes. If you
have any doubts, ask a qualified roofing contractor or inspector to check the roof. Most roof
repairs are best left to a qualified roofing contractor.

Overhanging Trees

Tree limbs rubbing on a roof can do serious damage. Overhanging branches should be
kept trimmed to provide adequate clearance even in a high wind to prevent insect infestation and
to minimize leaves and debris from falling onto the roof surface. Trees can grow rapidly and
should be inspected at least twice a year. Oak wilt is a serious problem in many areas of Texas
and can best be prevented by trimming oaks during the coldest or hottest times of year. Sterilize
pruning tools with bleach and promptly cover cuts with wound paint. Major trimming is best left
to a certified arborist.

Roof Flashings

A common area for water leaks found on a roof is at the flashings and penetrations in the

roofing, such as vents. No-Caulk plumbing vent pipe flashings are very commonly used and
typically last 10-15 years. They may need to be replaced before the roofing material in some
cases. Lead type plumbing vent pipe flashings may last longer, however squirrels will chew and
damaged the lead around the vent pipe allowing water leaks. Chimney caps may crack on masonry
types or rusting on metal. Cracking or rusting should be repaired to prevent water penetration
and deterioration around the chimney. The veneer siding or trim on chimney may be counter
flashing for the flashings at the chimney or roof level sidewalls. These materials should be
maintained and any wood type products kept painted to prevent water leaks and deterioration.

Roof Surfaces

On composition shingle roofs, look for signs of damage or wear. Remove leaves and
debris because they can hold moisture. Worn surfaces, missing granular coating, cracked, pitted,
brittle or swollen shingles are signs that shingles may be nearing the end of life and need to be
replaced. Raised shingle tabs may indicate improperly seated fasteners that can be carefully
reseated. Take care not to tear the shingle or poke a hole in it. Split, torn or missing shingles may
cause leaks and should be replaced immediately. Check the condition of roof level sidewalls and
chimneys not visible from the ground.

Metal roofs are best observed from a ladder at the eaves. Walking on a metal roof can

bend panels, creating leaks. Look for loose fasteners, rusted panels, open seams, bent flashing
and deteriorated caulking.

Flat or built-up roofs may be surfaced with several different types of roofing materials.
Generally, check for areas of water ponding, areas of missing aggregate coverings or gravel, tears
or blisters in the surface, and deep alligator cracking. Also, check the condition of flashings at
edges and vents. Flat roofs are prone to leak and require regular maintenance, therefore a
qualified roofing contractor should further investigate any such problems. Leaves and debris left
on the roof will hold water and speed deterioration.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

10

Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips



Concrete and clay tile roofs are easily damaged and a thorough inspection is best left to
a qualified roofing contractor. Walking on a tile roof is not recommended. From the eaves you can
check the general roof condition. Look for rotted fascia, loose, missing or cracked tiles,
deteriorated caulking and sealant.

An Energy Efficient Home:


Sealing Air Leaks

Air leaks in a house can result
in increased heating and cooling cost.
Sealing these air leaks can decrease
energy cost and make your home more
comfortable. Sealing joints and
penetrations with caulking, gaskets,
weather-stripping, or other air barrier
materials where accessible will help
reduce air loss and air infiltration.
Some of these areas include gaps
around windows, doors, attic accesses in the conditioned areas of the home, recessed lights, and
electrical outlets. This is often the most cost effective way to improve energy efficiency and
comfort. There are many different types of products at home improvement stores that can be
used to address different types of air leaks. Caulking is the most common for sealing smaller
leaks, along with spray foam, and weather stripping, Plywood, drywall, or rigid foam insulation
can be used to cover larger holes.
The heating and cooling systems ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the
house. In a typical house about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost
due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping
the house comfortable. Accessible ducts in the attic and crawlspaces can be sealed with duct
sealant (also called duct mastic). Insulating metal ducts or replacing ducts with deteriorated
insulation also can save significant energy.

The EnergyGuide & ENERGY STAR Label



Look for the EnergyGuide and ENERGY STAR labels
when replacing appliances and compare the labels to other
models. The Federal Trade Commission requires EnergyGuide
labels on most home appliances. EnergyGuide labels provide an
estimate of the product's energy consumption or energy
efficiency. They also show the highest and lowest energy
consumption or efficiency estimates of similar appliance models.

ENERGY STAR labels are on appliances that meet strict energy efficiency criteria

established by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The
ENERGY STAR labeling program includes most home electronics and appliances except for stove
ranges and ovens.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Legislation of the Light Bulb?

For new construction homes, the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) requires at
least fifty percent of the lamps in permanently installed fixtures are high efficacy lamps. This is
intended to help eliminate the use of incandescent bulbs for permanently installed light fixtures.
The phasing out of incandescent lighting is set to begin in 2012 with the 100-watt bulb and end
in 2014 with the 40-watt bulb increasing the overall efficiency by 70 percent by 2020 compared
to today.
Two common energy efficient bulbs today are compact fluorescents (CFL), and light-emitting
diode or LED. When choosing a CFL you should look for bulbs that are ENERGY STAR qualified
because they have been tested to meet stringent performance criteria established by the U.S.
Department of Energy and the EPA. LED lighting is ultra-compact and dramatically more efficient
than traditional incandescent bulbs up to 85% more efficient and over 10% more efficient than
compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Under the new rule, the back of each package of light bulbs
will have a Lighting Facts label modeled after the Nutrition Facts label that is currently on food
packages. The Lighting Facts label will provide information about brightness; energy cost; bulbs
life expectancy; light appearance; wattage; and if the bulb contains mercury.

Light bulb information & label found at www.ftc.gov

Recessed Light Fixtures



The 2009 International Residential Code (IRC)
also requires that all recessed light fixtures be sealed
with caulking or gaskets and IC rated, (insulation
contact). This is intended to limit air leakage
between the conditioned and unconditioned spaces
and reduce energy loss due to air leaks at the
fixtures.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Radiant Barriers

Reflective insulation, also called a radiant
barrier, is a metallic foil material (usually aluminum)
designed to block radiant heat transfer across open
spaces. Reflective insulation is most effective in
reducing cooling bills in hot, sunny climates. The
performance and long-term cost-effectiveness of the
product depends on a number of factors including
where the product is installed, how the product is
installed, and the amount of existing insulation
currently in the home.

Attic Ventilation

A properly balanced attic ventilation system removes moisture and heat from the attic

contributing to a healthy house. Under current building standards, one (1) square foot of free vent
area should be provided for every one
hundred and fifty (150) square feet of
ceiling area. Depending on the ventilation
product used, there are other
considerations and methods. Soffit vents
intake air into the attic space while your
upper roof vents exhaust air to the
exterior. Upper roof vent types include
static vents, ridge vents, turbines, and
power ventilators.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)



SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Its a number that describes how well
air-conditioning equipment works. A higher SEER means better efficiency and lower energy bills.
SEER is calculated by dividing the amount of cooling supplied by the air conditioner or heat pump
(Btus per hour) by the power (watts) used by the cooling equipment under a specific set of
seasonal conditions. As of January 2006, all residential air conditioners sold in the United States
must have a SEER of at least 13. ENERGY STAR qualified Central Air Conditioners must have a SEER
of at least 14.

Programable Thermostats

Installing a programable thermostat in your home is an easy way you can save energy
and money on your utilities. Programable thermostats allow you to regulate your homes
temperature to your schedule and cycles when youre home or away.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Insulation

Texas spans through climate zones 2, 3 & 4
(Except Marine). Depending where you live, your
insulation requirements will vary. Insulation
requirements for these climates zone was provided
by the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code
(IECC). Insulation is rated by thermal resistance
called R-value, which indicates the resistance to heat
flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the
insulating effectiveness. The R-value of thermal
insulation depends on the type of material, its

Zone 4
( Except Marine)

thickness, and its density.


Adequate attic insulation helps keep your home comfortable and lowers
heating and cooling costs. Look at the insulation in your attic
spaces and consider adding insulation if ceiling joists are
visible, the insulation is compacted or unevenly

Zone 3
Zone 2

distributed, or does not meet the requirements for your


climate zone. Additional access doors and hatches
between the living space and attic should also be
insulated and weatherstripped. An insulation specialist
can help you determine the best solution for your home.

Texas map from IECC


Climate Zone

Ceilings

Wood Frame Walls

Floors

IECC Climate Zone 2

R30

R13

R13

IECC Climate Zone 3

R30

R13

R19

IECC Climate Zone 4

R38

R13

R19

DOE Climate Zones 2-4

R-60

-----

R19 to R30

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips

Laundry Room
Laundry Connections and Dryer Vent

Check the laundry room washing

machine connections and hoses for leaks and


corrosion. Corrosion at faucets may indicate
a small leak that can turn into big leak. In
hard water areas, periodically cleaning of the
screens in the hose at the washer
connections may be necessary. If the water
supply hoses are more than 3 years old it is
recommended they be replaced. Consider
replacing them with the stainless steel
braided hoses for increased safety.
If you notice that your clothes dont seem to be drying like they use to, it may not be your dryer
but the dryer vent. Check your dryer vent connections for excessive lint buildup and clean the
vent. In some cases the entire vent may need to be cleaned by a professional. Cleaning the
dryers lint screen before each use prevents lint buildup and saves energy.

Fire Safety Tips:


Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Each month press the test button on your detectors to be sure they are working. At
minimum once a year (the start of daylight savings time is a good reminder) change all batteries in
all smoke detectors. If the smoke detectors are more than ten years old or you dont know their
age, then it is time to replace them. If you dont have smoke detectors, install one in each
bedroom, in bedroom hallways, and on each living level of the home.
Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed
outside each separate sleeping area in the
immediate vicinity of the bedrooms of homes
that have fuel fired appliances or in homes with
an attached garage.
Never paint over a smoke or carbon monoxide
alarm. Paint will seal the vents and interfere
with the sensors ability to detect smoke and
carbon monoxide. Clean the alarms by using a
vacuum with a soft brush attachment to
removed dust and dirt, and make sure to test
the alarm after you are finished. Never use any
detergents or solvent to clean the sensor.

Austin Structural Inspections 2011!

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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


Fire Extinguishers

You do have one, dont you? Be sure the fire extinguisher is suitable for all types of fires.
It should be marked A, B, and C to indicate what type of fires it can be used to extinguish.
Having a fire extinguisher is one thing, having it ready in case of an emergency is another. It is
recommended to have at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home. Also, keep them
in plain sight and no more than five feet above the floor. The most important places to have a fire
extinguisher are in areas that are more susceptible to fire the kitchen and garage. The best
location to mount the fire extinguisher is by the door. Make sure all family members know the
location of the extinguisher and how to operate it. Each month, check that the fire extinguisher is
fully charged and has not passed its expiration date.

Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Systems (HVAC):



Having a qualified HVAC contractor inspect and service your heating and air conditioning
equipment twice a year will keep them operating efficiently and maximize the life of the system.

Return Air Filters

The single most important thing a homeowner can do to keep the heating ventilation and

air conditioning system operating at peak efficiency is to keep the return air filters clean. Air filters
should be properly sized so they do not lift or move when the blower cycles on allowing unfiltered
air to bypass the filter. They should be cleaned or replaced when they start to become dirty and
restrict air flow into the system. The filters manufactures instructions on the packaging should
say how often they should be replaced.
MERV ratings, 1-16 are used to rate the ability of a filter to
remove dust from the air as it passes through the filter.
MERV is a standard used to measure the overall efficiency of
a filter. Higher MERV ratings mean fewer dust particles and
other airborne contaminants pass through the filter. A filter
rated between 5 to 8 MERV is a good choice and will collect
particles as small as 3 microns. When using filters with
ratings above 9 it is important to clean or replace them when
recommended by the manufacturer since they will reduce air
flow when they become dirty and cause performance
problems and decrease the efficiency of the system.

Heating

Gas-fired heating systems should be inspected yearly by a qualified HVAC professional
to ensure proper and safe operation. Remember to install carbon monoxide detectors when a gas
heating system is in place.

Electric heat requires little homeowner maintenance. Simply be observant, and if the unit

does not seem to be heating adequately, contact your HVAC contractor to evaluate it.

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A heat pump is intended for climates with moderate heating needs. They offer an energyefficient alternative to electric heat. Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat
pumps can provide up to 4 times the amount of energy they consume.
The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump which transfers heat between
your house and the outside air. If you heat with electricity, a heat pump can trim the amount of
electricity you use for heating by as much as 30%40%. A heat pump's refrigeration system
consists of a compressor and two coils made of copper tubing (one indoors and one outside),
which are surrounded by aluminum fins to aid heat transfer. In the heating mode, liquid
refrigerant in the outside coils extracts heat from the air and evaporates into a gas. The indoor
coils release heat from the refrigerant as it condenses back into a liquid. A reversing valve, near
the compressor, can change the direction of the refrigerant flow for cooling as well as for
defrosting the outdoor coils in winter.
When outdoor temperatures fall below 40F, a less-efficient panel of electric resistance coils,
similar to those in your toaster, kicks in to provide indoor heating. This is why air-source heat
pumps aren't always very efficient for heating in areas with cold winters. Some units now have
gas-fired backup furnaces instead of electric resistance coils, allowing them to operate more
efficiently.

Air Conditioning

As the air conditioning system cools the air, it removes humidity and produces
condensation. Most air conditioning systems installed in the attic above the first floor have two
condensation drain lines installed. The primary drain is connected to the plumbing system,
usually under a bathroom sink or a bathtub drain. An auxiliary drain line, or secondary drain line,
is connected to the coil or a drain pan
under the coil. This line is routed to the
exterior over a conspicuous location
normally over a window or door. While
this acts as a back-up system, it is a red
flag warning that the primary drain line
is clogged. If you notice water leaking
from this auxiliary drain, the primary
drain may be obstructed or blocked. You
can contact an HVAC technician to
corrected this condition. Some newer
systems may also have a secondary
sensor installed in the secondary drain
port or drain pan to monitor condensate
in the primary drain pan. This sensor
detects condensate overflow backing up
into the drain line, shutting off the HVAC
unit and preventing an overflow of the
primary drain pan, giving you time to correct the problem. If there is an opening or vent at the
primary drain line, pour one cup of a 50% solution of chlorine bleach and water into the opening.
Doing this in the spring and fall can help keep the drain line clear and open.

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Outside the house, make certain to trim
foliage back from the condensing unit coil
fins for adequate air circulation and more
efficient operation. Manufacturers
recommend different clearances around a
condenser unit and a minimum of five feet
above the unit is usually required. Listen for
unusual fan or motor noise that might signal
impending failure. Damaged or bent metal
coil fins can reduce the efficiency of the
system. HVAC contractors have special tools
for straightening bent coil fins.

Electrical:
Electrical Outlets

You may notice that newer receptacles are marked TR for Tamper-Resistant. The 2008
National Electric Code (NEC) required TR Receptacles in all new residential housing. This
requirement results from a Consumer Product Safety Commission study that documented injuries
in the home caused each year by children attempting to insert foreign objects into receptacles.
They are safer than other preventive measures since they are permanent, offering continuous
protection unlike plastic outlet caps that can be removed. When updating or replacing damaged
receptacles you may consider installing Tamper-Resistant Receptacles.
Occupancy sensor switches turn lights ON when a person enters a room and OFF when they leave.
That saves energy, provides convenience, and lowers electrical bills. With dimmer and light control
switches you use just the right amount of light reducing electricity usage and extending bulb life.
If a dimmer seems very warm to the touch, the light fixture may need lower wattage bulbs to
prevent the dimmer switch from overheating.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters Protection

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

are safety devices used in place of a standard


electrical outlet or can be a breaker type in the
panel box. The 2008 National Electrical Code
requires ground fault protection at all kitchen
countertops, bathrooms, within six feet of a wet
bar or laundry sinks, all garage and outdoor
locations. A GFCI monitors the amount of current
flowing from the hot to neutral side. If there is
any imbalance in this, the circuit will trip. It is
able to sense a mismatch as small as 4 to 5
milliamps. One example is using a blender in
the kitchen and it splashes making the blender
housing wet. When you touch the wet blender
with your hands, there is a path from the hot wire

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inside the blender through you to ground. If electricity flows from that hot wire to the wet
housing, say from a damage cord, it will go to ground through you and could be fatal. The GFCI
can sense the mismatch in current from hot to neutral tripping the circuit and cutting off the
electricity to the appliance.
GFCI devices should be tested monthly by pressing the test button to interrupt power and the
reset button to restore electricity to the receptacle. A lamp or other small device plugged into
the receptacle should turn off and on accordingly. Inexpensive circuit testers with GFCI testing
devices can also be used. Defective GFCI receptacles should be replaced by a qualified electrician.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)



Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) are
breakers located in the panel box intended to
provide protection from fire by opening the
circuit if an arc fault is detected. The 2008
National Electrical Code requires combination
AFCI breakers to be installed on all single phase
15 and 20-amp non-ground fault circuits
supplying power to dwelling areas including
family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms,
parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun rooms,
recreation rooms, closets, hallways or similar
rooms. Arc fault circuit breakers should be tested
periodically by pressing the test button. This assures that the arc fault device is functioning. If the
device does not trip it will need to be replaced.

Plumbing:
Plumbing Fixtures & Drains

Daily use of water faucets in the house should
make it obvious when they are hard to turn off, start to
drip, or splatter water on countertops. Replacing faucet
washers can usually repair dripping faucets. Sediment in
many water systems can build up in faucet aerators,
restricting water flow and spattering water. To solve this
problem, unscrew the aerator from the faucet spout,
disassemble it (keeping parts in proper order), rinse away
sediment, reassemble and screw the aerator back on.
Occasionally it may be necessary to replace the aerator to
achieve proper performance.
Periodically inspect supply shut-off valves under sinks and
at toilets for proper operation, corrosion and leaks. A
leaking or inoperable valve can create a lagoon of trouble
if not caught and corrected early.
Occasionally fill sinks with water and look at the drain and

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Home Maintenance Guide & Energy Saving Tips


P trap below while the water flows through the drain pipes. A properly draining sink will empty
faster than it fills. At the same time, look under the sink for leaks in the drainpipes. Bathtubs and
showers should also drain faster than the water runs, so youre not standing in a puddle of water
while showering. Repairing these simple plumbing problems early can help avoid bigger problems
later.
Another big water waster is a running toilet. Heres an easy test to see if you have a problem. Put
a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tankdont flush yet. After a while, if any color appears
in the toilet bowl, you have a leak. Start by replacing the rubber flapper inside the tank. If the leak
continues, then the seal between the tank and bowl may need to be replaced. While the lid is off
the toilet tank, check flush mechanisms, handles, chain flappers and ball cock or fill valves. A
poorly adjusted or worn ball cock valve (also called a fill valve) can cause additional water loss.
Make sure your replacement ball cock or fill valve is an anti-siphon type, where valve assembly is
above the overflow tube in the toilet tank that avoids back siphoning and contamination of the
drinking water supply. Check that the toilet bowl is firmly secured or anchored to the floor, with
no leaks between the bowl, the tank, the floor or at the water supply valve on the wall.

Water Heaters

Conventional storage water heaters remain the most popular type of water heating
systems while tankless coil water heaters are becoming more common. A tankless water heater
cycles on when a hot water faucet is turned on. The water flows through the heat exchanger and
provides hot water on demand without a tank.
To avoid scalding and to maximum efficiency, the temperature on both gas and electric water
heaters should be at the lowest possible setting that still provides hot water. Setting your water
temperature to 120F can help your water heater last longer and operate at its maximum
efficiency. Water heated to and over 140F poses a safety hazard and can cause scalding.

Time & Temperature Relationship in Scalds


Water Temperature

Time To Produce a Serious Burn

120F

More than 5 Minutes

125F

1 1/2 to 2 Minutes

130F

About 30 Second

135F

About 10 Second

140F

Less than 5 Second

145F

Less than 3 Second

150F

About 1 1/2 Second

155F

About 1 Second
Table courtesy of Shriners Burn Institute

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Properly maintaining your water heater will provide years of
dependable, trouble free service. Check your owner's manual
for specific maintenance recommendations. Here are some
routine maintenance tips for storage water heaters:
Check for water leaks or corrosion at the supply pipe
fittings and lower drain valve.
A water heaters tank can act as a settling basin for solids
suspended in the water. It is suggested that a few quarts of
water be drained from the water heaters tank every month
to clean the tank of these deposits.
At least once a year, lift and release the lever handle on the
temperature pressure relief valve, located near the top of
the water heater, to make certain the valve operates freely.
Allow several gallons to flush through the discharge line to an open drain.
The anode rod should be removed from the water heaters tank annually for inspection and
replaced when more than 6 of core wire is exposed at either end of the rod. This should only
be done by a qualified plumber.
To ensure sufficient ventilation and combustion air supply, proper clearances must be
maintained around gas fired water heaters.
On gas fired water heaters, test for spillage at the draft hood relief opening after 5 minutes of
burner operation. If spillage is detected, the water heaters internal flue must be inspected to
be certain it is clean by removing the draft hood and flue baffle. Again, this should only be done
by a qualified plumber.
Visually inspect the pilot burner and main burners annually on gas fired water heaters. If debris
or irregular flames are observed, servicing and cleaning may be required. For models with a
burner chamber that is sealed, cleaning of the burner must be performed only by qualified
service personnel. If the burner access door is removed, the burner access door gasket must be
replaced.

Sprinkler Systems

Lawn sprinkler systems require regular maintenance. Periodically run through the stations

with the manual controls checking each station for broken, misdirected sprinkler heads, broken
pipes and surface leaks. A properly adjusted system will result in less water run off and greener
grass. The backflow preventer is typically located near the water shut off to the house. Make sure
you know where it is located so you can shut the water off to the system when necessary.

Rain & Freeze Sensors


Rain sensors measure rainfall signaling the system not to water until the rain has stopped and the
water from the rain has evaporated. Once this is completed, the sensor signals the system to
resume its programmed watering schedule. Freeze sensors prevent your automatic sprinkler
system from watering during cold weather causing water to freeze over walkways and streets.

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